Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Getting a Start with Geophysics…

Last night John, Craig, and Baptiste arrived in Barrow. These three have been part of the NGEE Arctic project from the beginning or actually slightly before the beginning. Our project officially launched in spring of 2012, but our geophysical characterization of the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) started in September, 2011. We visited the Barrow area as part of a pre-project tour of Alaska in August 2011 and the team immediately saw opportunities to begin sub-surface research of the ice-rich tundra environment. So this group, along with Susan, Yuxin, Jonathan, Tim, and Haruko, all from LBNL has a fair amount of experience working in the Arctic.

In preparation for work this week John, Craig, and Baptiste spent the morning sorting through the dozen or more boxes shipped ahead of time to Barrow. UMIAQ stored all the boxes in Building 553 where our supplies can be a kept dry and secure. We spent an hour organizing instruments, materials, and supplies; and found that we were missing two boxes. They were not to be found in any of the usual places. So, with a little help from UMIAQ, we finally determined that the two missing boxes were still at Northern Air Cargo (NAC) in town. I drove to the airport during lunch and was happy to locate the boxes within a few minutes of searching the warehouse. This meant that we had everything needed for a productive two weeks of geophysical studies.

Once all boxes were accounted for and equipment sorted, John and Baptiste started assembling the OhmMapper resistivity system. Our team has previously worked with using electrical resistivity before to characterize sub-surface properties of active layer and permafrost, but that work has largely been with a static system. i.e., stainless steel electrodes inserted in the ground. The OhmMapper is composed of a series of receivers and transmitters that, when towed behind a snow machine, allow sub-surface profiles to be determined in a continuous manner. It is possible to acquire a lot of geophysical information in a very short period of time. We will be using this system in a couple of days.

While John and Baptiste were working on the OhmMapper system, mounting it on one of the wooden sleds, Craig and I headed out to the BEO on snow machines. We received safety training and a proficiency check ride from Brower Frantz earlier in the day. Travel across the tundra was relatively quick and we saw plenty of caribou en route to the BEO control shed. Craig and others from LBNL have arranged for us to broadcast a Google Hangout on Thursday morning and we wanted to check internet connections from our planned field location. Everything went according to plan and we will link live with high school and middle school students in California and Wisconsin for a discussion of research being conducted in the NGEE Arctic project.

Finally, I recalled seeing an interesting Inupiaq Word for the Month written on the white board at the UMIAQ office. I went back this afternoon and snapped a picture. The word is “Cooperation,” and it is one of the core values for the native people in this area. The word has some interesting attributes, especially in relation to how people interact with one another in the workplace and beyond.